In Search of the World's Biggest Bee: How It Came to 'Bee'

BugSquad By Kathy Keatley Garvey February 26, 2019

Imagine you're in an Indonesian rainforest and a humongous bee, with a wingspan of two and a half inches, flies over your head.

The world's largest bee, known as Wallace's Giant Bee (Megachile pluto), considered extinct since 1981, lives.

It's not extinct, after all.

You probably read the news. An international team, accompanied by guides, rediscovered the black resin bee in January in the North Moluccas, an island group in Indonesia. The find, announced Feb. 21, continues to draw "oohs" "aahs" and accolades.

The four-member team, supported by Global Wildlife Conservation, an Austin, Texas-based organization that runs a Search for Lost Species program, included Honorary Professor Simon Robson of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney; Honorary Professor Glen Chilton, of Saint Mary's University, Canada; Clay Bolt, a natural history conservation photographer from Montana who specializes in North American native bees; and entomologist and bee expert Eli Wyman of Princeton University.

“It was absolutely breathtaking to see this 'flying bulldog' of an insect that we weren't sure existed anymore,” said Bolt, who is known for his conservation efforts, including his work with the rusty-patched bumble bee. His work (see his website at http://www.claybolt.com) has been featured in National GeographicScientific American and many others.

“To see how beautiful and big the species is in real life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible," Bolt said. "My dream is to now use this rediscovery to elevate this bee to a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia."

It was the last day of their five-day trip when they found it: a single female Wallace's Giant Bee living in an active termite mound in a tree about 2.5 meters off the ground. The bee, which nests in active arboreal termite mounds, lines her nest with tree resin to protect it from termites.

Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, and a past president of the International Hymenopterists (she was not involved in the project) surmises that are more in the area. "Finding a female is a good thing," she told us.

"Yes, I've had a lot of folks email me and call me about the giant bee," said Kimsey, whose museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens, but no Megachile pluto. "I've actually seen specimens of this beast either at some meetings or the American Museum of Natural History. No surprise that it hasn't been collected since the '80s. Its probably been that long since someone collected in the Moluccas."

In his blog, Bolt relates how it all came about. In 2015 he visited Wyman at the American Museum of Natural History  “as part of an ambitious project documenting North America's under-appreciated native bee species. Eli was kind enough to show me around. As we looked through drawers of pinned bee specimens from around the world, I drooled over the beautiful array of species. Just before I left, Eli said with a sly grin, ‘want to see a specimens of Megachile pluto?” I couldn't believe my ears and seconds later, I was literally inches away from one of the rarest and most-sought-after insects in the world."

“It was more magnificent than I could have imagined, even in death,” Bolt blogged. “Eli shared with me that it had been his dream to try to find the bee in the wild for years and before long the two of us began a lengthy dialogue discussing possibilities, following clues, nearly giving up; ultimately a path to follow in the footsteps of Wallace himself and search for the bee in the Indonesian islands known as the North Moluccas. When we heard that GWC was calling for nominations for their Search for Lost Species program, we convinced them to include Wallace's Giant Bee on their top 25 'most wanted list.' We were one step closer to fulfilling our dream."

Fast forward to January 2019. Bolt remembers staring at "termite mounds for 20 minutes at a time" then moving on to the next mound. "It was invigorating but tiring work...As each day went by, we were less and less sure it would happen."

"By the last day of searching, we were all dealing with various maladies, including Glen, who had made the difficult decision to return home to Australia after coming down with heat-induced illness," Bolt blogged. "That day we walked down an old orchard road flanked on both sides by mixed lowland forest and fruit trees. Iswan (a guide), ever the eagle eye, spotted a low termite mound, around eight feet from the ground. He later recounted that he almost didn't mention it to us because, like the rest of the team, he was feeling tired and hungry. However, I'll forever be grateful that he did because as we scampered up an embankment to the nest, we immediately noticed that it had a hole in it, like many other nests we'd seen, but this one was a little more perfect. It was very round, and just the size that a giant bee might use.

"Bracing the rotting tree, I asked Iswan if he would mind climbing up to take a look inside. As he peered inside the nest he exclaimed, 'I saw something move!' Jumping down, for fear that the creature was a snake—his worst fear—after catching his breath, he said that it looked wet and sticky inside. Eli and I looked at each other with reserved excitement. Eli climbed up and immediately felt for certain that it was a bee nest. The structure was just too perfect and similar to what we expected to find. I climbed up next and my headlamp glinted on the most remarkable thing I'd ever laid my eyes on. I simply couldn't believe it:

"We had rediscovered Wallace's Giant Bee."

They documented it, photographed it, and let it bee.

British entomologist Alfred Russel Wallace discovered the giant bee in 1858 when he was exploring the Indonesian island of Bacan. He described the female bee, about the length of a human thumb, as "a large black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag-beetle." Years went by. It was considered extinct until American entomologist Adam Messer rediscovered it in 1981. 

And now this international team has rediscovered it...in 2019.

Sadly, this is a bee threatened by habitat loss.   Between 2001 and 2017, Indonesia lost 15 percent of its forestation, according to Global Forest Watch.  "The islands have become home to oil palm plantations that now occupy much of the former native habitat," says Wikipedia. "This has caused the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to label this species as Vulnerable."

And sadly, there are greedy entrepreneurs out there anxious to make a buck. Or a lot of bucks. Two specimens sold on eBay in 2018. One sold for $9,100 on March 25, 2018. It was advertised as "very rare--only one!"

We need strict conservation efforts--and bans on international trade--to save this iconic bee.

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt photographs Wallace’s Giant Bee in its. nest. The bee nests in active termite mounds in the North Moluccas, Indonesia. (Copyright Simon Robson)

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt photographs Wallace’s Giant Bee in its. nest. The bee nests in active termite mounds in the North Moluccas, Indonesia. (Copyright Simon Robson)

Wallace’s Giant Bee, Megachile pluto, the world’s largest bee, is approximately four times larger than a European honey bee. This is a composite. (Copyright: Clay Bolt, www:claybolt.photoshelter.com)

Wallace’s Giant Bee, Megachile pluto, the world’s largest bee, is approximately four times larger than a European honey bee. This is a composite. (Copyright: Clay Bolt, www:claybolt.photoshelter.com)

World's Largest Bee Rediscovered in Indonesia

Discover Magazine By Alison Mackey February 26, 2019

worlds largest bee.jpg

What a bee! Lost to the science since 1981, the world’s largest bee (Megachile pluto) has been rediscovered on an island in Indonesia.

Its non-scientific name is Wallace’s giant bee, named for British entomologist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection … and giant it is! With a 2.5 inch wingspan, this beast of a bee towers over its more familiar brethren. The female is pictured here — males of the species are smaller, something not uncommon for insect species.

The bees make homes for themselves inside termite nests, walling themselves off from the insects with resin and other materials. Their large jaws come in handy here, put to use scraping the resin from trees to be rolled into balls and flown back to their nests.

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt has the distinct honor of being the first person to photograph a living specimen of the giant bee in decades.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2019/02/26/worlds-largest-bee-indonesia-wallaces-giant-bee/

Massive Loss Of Thousands Of Hives Afflicts Orchard Growers And Beekeepers

NPR Heard on All Things Considered By Anna King February 18, 2019

Bret Adee, a third-generation beekeeper who owns one of the largest beekeeping companies in the U.S., lost half of his hives — about 50,000 — over the winter. He pops the lid on one of the hives to show off the colony inside.  Greta Mart/KCBX

Bret Adee, a third-generation beekeeper who owns one of the largest beekeeping companies in the U.S., lost half of his hives — about 50,000 — over the winter. He pops the lid on one of the hives to show off the colony inside. Greta Mart/KCBX

Almond bloom comes nearly all at once in California — a flush of delicate pale blooms that unfold around Valentine's Day.

And beekeeper Bret Adee is hustling to get his hives ready, working through them on a Central Valley ranch before placing them in orchards.

He deftly tap-taps open a hive. "We're gonna open this up, and you're going to see a whole lot of bees here," Adee says.

Under the lid, the exposed sleepy occupants hum away. He uses a handheld smoker to keep them calm and huddled around their queen.

This third-generation beekeeper works night and day with a crew of more than 35. Adee has been busy staging more than 100 semi truckloads of his honey bee hives in almond orchards over a 200 mile swath of the Central Valley.

When temperatures rise and the blooms open, his bees wake up and go to work. It's his hives' first yearly stop on a 6,500-mile tour across the nation.

But this almond bloom, Adee's scrambling more than usual.

Deadouts

Adee lost more than half of his hives over the winter — 50,000. And he's not alone.

"You know, in September, I thought we had the most awesome bees ever," Adee says. "The bees looked incredibly good."

Like Adee, many beekeepers across the U.S. have lost half their hives — they call one with no live bees inside a "deadout." Some beekeepers lost as many as 80 percent. That's unusual. And many of the hives that did survive aren't strong in numbers.

A healthy hive able to pollinate has at least eight frames mostly covered in bees on both sides. But the fear this year is that there will be many weaker hives put into California almond orchards for pollination because so many hives have died across the country.  Greta Mart/KCBX

A healthy hive able to pollinate has at least eight frames mostly covered in bees on both sides. But the fear this year is that there will be many weaker hives put into California almond orchards for pollination because so many hives have died across the country. Greta Mart/KCBX

For decades Adee says if he lost 5 percent he really got nervous. Now a 40 percent loss every few years is more common, he says. But this many lost hives across the country is concerning.

Every hive

California almond orchards have grown so much over the past 10 years, the bloom requires nearly every commercial hive available in the United States.

Almonds have grown from 765,000 acres to 1.33 million acres in the last decade. Bees travel from as far as Florida and New York to do the job. Without these hives, there is no harvest.

Almond bloom is just as important to the beekeepers. It's a chance to make nearly half their yearly income, and a place for the bees to work and grow early in the spring while healing up from winter.

This year, many beekeepers have had to tell their orchardists that they won't have enough bees this year to cover their entire contracts. And some orchardists are desperately calling beekeepers. Some report pollination prices going up.

Sneaky suckers

Experts say honey bees are dealing with many stressors: chemicals, loss of wildflowers, climate change, nutrition and viruses. But this year, a special problem might have taken down the honey bees more than usual.

A matrix of almond branches show off delicate early blooms near Lost Hills, Calif. Almonds have grown from 765,000 acres to 1.33 million acres in the last decade.  Greta Mart/KCBX

A matrix of almond branches show off delicate early blooms near Lost Hills, Calif. Almonds have grown from 765,000 acres to 1.33 million acres in the last decade. Greta Mart/KCBX

A tiny parasite called the varroa mite sucks at the bee's body, causing big problems.

Ramesh Sagili, a bee expert with Oregon State University, predicted these big bee losses because of mites earlier last year.

"It's a very lethal parasite on honey bees," Sagili says. "It causes significant damage not only to the bee, but to the entire colony. A colony might be decimated in months if this varroa mite isn't taken care of."

He says unusually early and warm spring weather last year made the bees start rearing baby bees early. That gave varroa mites a chance to breed and multiply too.

Varroa mothers crawl into the cells of baby bees and hide there until the bees close the cell up with wax. Then they lay an egg and rear their young on the baby bee.

Emotional sting

When the almond blooms fade, beekeepers will truck their hives across America — from the Northwest and Dakotas to the South and Maine, chasing spring.

Eric Olson, 75, of Selah, Wash., points out the fruiting wood on his cherry tree. Pruning helps to open the canopy so the fruit can ripen well, and cuts back on fast-growing branches called suckers that can sap the tree's energy away from the valuable fruit.  Anna King/Northwest News Network

Eric Olson, 75, of Selah, Wash., points out the fruiting wood on his cherry tree. Pruning helps to open the canopy so the fruit can ripen well, and cuts back on fast-growing branches called suckers that can sap the tree's energy away from the valuable fruit. Anna King/Northwest News Network

In Eric Olson's foggy and frosty Washington state cherry orchard, bloom is still a while off. His crew is busy pruning away the wood that would block light to the fresh fruit.

He's helps manage one of the largest beekeeping businesses in the Northwest.

He says their hives experienced a dramatic loss this year. But it's not as bad a when he lost about 65 percent of them.

"That's when I cried," says Olson, who served 20 years in the Air Force. "I was a pilot and I spent my time in combat situations. Never in my life was I as low as when we lost 65 percent of those bees."

Chasing spring

Still, spokespeople for the almond industry are saying it's all fine.

"Orchard growers who have long-standing relationships with beekeepers are not experiencing problems," says Bob Curtis, a consultant for the Almond Board of California. "Folks that are having trouble are the ones that don't make the contracts in the fall with beekeepers."

If Northwest growers line up beekeepers early, Olson says he expects there will be enough bees for the region's smaller fruit tree bloom. Still, he's worried for his orchardist friends.

"If I can't get bees in my cherries I'm in trouble," Olson says. "I don't have a crop. What do I do? I don't know."

Surveys later this spring will give a better idea of nationwide bee losses, but that might be too late for orchardists at the end of the pollination line.

This story comes to us from the Northwest News Network.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/02/18/694301239/massive-loss-of-thousands-of-hives-afflicts-orchard-growers-and-beekeepers

Different Types of Honey Bees

The Different Types of Honey Bees

Introduction

Honey bees, like all other living things, vary among themselves in traits such as temperament, disease resistance, and productivity. The environment has a large effect on differences among bee colonies (for example, plants in different areas yield different honey crops), but the genetic makeup of a colony can also impact the characteristics that define a particular group. Beekeepers have long known that different genetic stocks have distinctive characteristics, so they have utilized different strains to suit their particular purpose, whether it be pollination, a honey crop, or bee production.

What Is a Bee Stock?

The term “stock” is defined as a loose combination of traits that characterize a particular group of bees. Such groups can be divided by species, race, region, population, or breeding line in a commercial operation. Many of the current “stocks” in the United States can be grouped at one or more of these levels, so the term will be used interchangeably, depending on the particular strain of bees in question.

Wide variation exists within stocks as well as among them. Any generalities about a particular stock should be treated with caution, since there are always exceptions to the rule. Nonetheless, the long and vast experience of beekeepers allows some oversimplifications to be made in order to better understand the different types of bees available. The following is a brief overview of some of the more common commercially available honey bee stocks in the United States.

Comparison of bees and their traits

Comparison of bees and their traits

The Italian Bee

Italian honey bees, of the subspecies Apis mellifera ligustica, were brought to the United States in 1859. They quickly became the favored bee stock in this country and remain so to this day. Known for their extended periods of brood rearing, Italian bees can build colony populations in the spring and maintain them for the entire summer. They are less defensive and less prone to disease than their German counterparts, and they are excellent honey producers. They also are very lightly colored, ranging from a light leather hue to an almost lemon yellow, a trait that is highly coveted by many beekeepers for its aesthetic appeal.

Despite their popularity, Italian bees have some drawbacks. First, because of their prolonged brood rearing, they may consume surplus honey in the hive if supers (removable upper sections where honey is stored) are not removed immediately after the honey flow stops. Second, they are notorious kleptoparasites and frequently rob the honey stores of weaker or dead neighboring colonies. This behavior may pose problems for Italian beekeepers who work their colonies during times of nectar dearth, and it may cause the rapid spread of transmittable diseases among hives.

The German Bee

Honey bees are not native to the New World, although North America has about 4,000 native species of bees. Honey bees were brought to America in the 17thcentury by the early European settlers. These bees were most likely of the subspecies A. m. mellifera, otherwise known as the German or “black” bee. This stock is very dark in color and tends to be very defensive, making bee management more difficult. One of the German bees’ more favorable characteristics is that they are a hardy strain, able to survive long, cold winters in northern climates. However, because of their defensive nature and their susceptibility to many brood diseases (such as American and European foulbrood), this stock lost favor with beekeepers well over a century ago. Although the feral bee population in the United States was once dominated by this strain, newly introduced diseases have nearly wiped out most wild honey bee colonies, making the German bee a rare stock at this time

The Carniolan Bee

The subspecies A. m. carnica, from middle Europe, also has been a favored bee stock in the United States for several reasons. First, their explosive spring buildup enables this race to grow rapidly in population and take advantage of blooms that occur much earlier in the spring, compared to other stocks. Second, they are extremely docile and can be worked with little smoke and protective clothing. Third, they are much less prone to robbing other colonies of honey, lowering disease transmission among colonies. Finally, they are very good builders of wax combs, which can be used for products ranging from candles, to soaps, to cosmetics.

Because of their rapid buildup, however, carniolan bees tend to have a high propensity to swarm (their effort to relieve overcrowding) and, therefore, may leave the beekeeper with a very poor honey crop. This stock requires continued vigilance to prevent the loss of swarms.

The Caucasian Bee

A. m. caucasica is a race of honey bees native to the foothills of the Ural mountains near the Caspian Sea in eastern Europe. This stock was once popular in the United States, but it has declined in regard over the last few decades. Its most notable characteristic is its very long tongue, which enables the bees to forage for nectar from flowers that other bee stocks may not have access to. They tend to be a moderately colored bee and, like the Carniolans, are extremely docile. However, their slow spring buildup keeps them from generating very large honey crops, and they tend to use an excessive amount of propolis—the sticky resin substance sometimes called “bee glue” that is used to seal cracks and joints of bee structures—making their hives diffi- cult to manipulate.

The Buckfast Bee

In the 1920s, honey bee colonies in the British Isles were devastated by acarine disease, which now is suspected to have been the endoparasitic tracheal mite Acarapis woodi. Brother Adams, a monk at Buckfast Abby in Devon, England, was charged with creating a bee stock that could withstand this deadly disease. He traveled the world interviewing beekeepers and learning about different bee strains, and he created a stock of bees, largely from the Italian race, that could thrive in the cold wet conditions of the British Isles, yet produce good honey crops and exhibit good housecleaning and grooming behavior to reduce the prevalence of disease. Bees of this stock are moderately defensive. However, if left unmanaged for one or two generations, they can be among the most fiercely defensive bees of any stock. They also are moderate in spring population buildup, preventing them from taking full advantage of early nectar flows.

The Russian Bee

One of the newer bee stocks in the United States was imported from far-eastern Russia by the US Department of Agriculture’s Honey Bee Breeding, Genetics, and Physiology Laboratory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The researchers’ logic was that these bees from the Primorski region on the Sea of Japan, have coexisted for the last 150 years with the devastating ectoparasite Varroa destructor, a mite that is responsible for severe colony losses around the globe, and they might thrive in the United States. The USDA tested whether this stock had evolved resistance to varroa and found that it had. Numerous studies have shown that bees of this strain have fewer than half the number of mites that are found in standard commercial stocks. The quarantine phase of this project has been complete since 2000, and bees of this strain are available commercially.

Russian bees tend to rear brood only during times of nectar and pollen flows, so brood rearing and colony populations tend to fluctuate with the environment. They also exhibit good housecleaning behavior, resulting in resistance not only to varroa but also to the tracheal mite.

Bees of this stock exhibit some unusual behaviors compared to other strains. For example, they tend to have queen cells present in their colonies almost all the time, whereas most other stocks rear queens only during times of swarming or queen replacement. Russian bees also perform better when not in the presence of other bee strains; research has shown that cross-contamination from susceptible stocks can lessen the varroa resistance of these bees.

Other Notable Stocks

Many other honey bee stocks are worth noting:

The Minnesota Hygienic stock has been selected for its exceptional housecleaning ability, significantly reducing the negative effects of most brood diseases.

The VSH, or the "Varroa Sensitive Hygiene" stock (used to be named the SMR stock, referring to “Suppression of Mite Reproduction”), also was developed by the USDA honey bee lab in Louisiana by artificially selecting commercial stocks for mite resistance. While not an independently viable stock on its own (because of inbreeding), the VSH trait has been incorporated into other genetic stocks so that these stocks may also express this highly desired characteristic.

The Cordovan bee is a type of Italian bee that has a very light yellow color, which is more attractive to many beekeepers.

Numerous hybrid stocks are also available commercially:

The Midnite bee was developed by crossing the Caucasian and Carniolan stocks, hoping to maintain the extreme gentleness of both strains while removing the excessive propolis of the Caucasians and minimizing the swarming propensity of the Carniolans.

The Starline was developed from numerous strains of the Italian stock by Gladstone Cale of the Dadant Bee Company. It was once favored by commercial beekeepers because of its tremendous honey yields, particularly in clover, but the popularity of this stock has declined in recent decades.

The Double Hybrid is a cross of the Midnite and the Starline.

Conclusion

While a tremendous amount of variation remains within and among the different bee stocks, some generalities still can be made. Bee differences can be used to advantage by beekeepers, depending on what traits interest them, so using different stocks can be a powerful tool at the beekeeper’s disposal. There is no “best” strain of bee, as the traits favored by one beekeeper may differ significantly from another’s choice. Thus, it is best for each beekeeper to experience the characteristics of the different bee strains first hand and then form an opinion about which stock best fits his or her situation.

For more information on beekeeping, visit the Beekeeping Notes website.

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/the-different-types-of-honey-bees

David R. Tarpy
Professor and Extension Apiculturist
Department of Entomology, Campus Box 7613
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7613
TEL: (919) 515-1660
FAX: (919) 515-7746
EMAIL: david_tarpy@ncsu.edu

Jennifer J. Keller
Apiculture Technician
Department of Entomology, Campus Box 7613
North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC 27695-7613
TEL: (919) 513-7702
FAX: (919) 515-7746
EMAIL: jennifer_keller@ncsu.edu

NC State Extension
Author David Tarpy,
Professor and Extension Apiculturist
Entomology

The Ultimate Guide to British Bees: How to Protect Their Declining Population

DIY Garden (UK)    By Clive Harris    January 9, 2018  

(NOTE: Good reading out of the UK from DIY Garden.)

Bees are a part of our landscapes and gardens, we know what they are and we know they make honey, but our bees are in danger of disappearing due to habitat destruction, chemicals and disease.

Without bees the human race will struggle to harvest enough food. That sounds dramatic but our pollinators are responsible for the fruiting of our harvest. In short, we have to change bee fortunes not only for their sake but for our own.

Bee numbers are a good indication of environmental health. Like our native hedgehogs and butterfliesthey are in decline and this points to environmental problems – but there are ways you can help reverse their fortunes.

The majority of people know bees make honey and they sting, but there is so much more to this fascinating creature – did you know they have five eyes? Two standard ones and then three on top of their head, and were you aware there are hundreds of different types in the UK alone?

Here’s the ultimate guide to bees and how we can help them survive.

Continue reading: https://diygarden.co.uk/wildlife/ultimate-guide-to-bees/?msID=615f1a74-c9a6-4763-8ee2-56c24bb2a7f5

A New Hope: Rare Bee Discovered in Alberta, Canada

ABJ Extra     April 17, 2018

One of the host bee species, Macropis nuda, collecting oil from a Lysimachia terrestris flower. Credit: Dr. Cory S. Sheffield

The Macropis Cuckoo Bee is one of the rarest bees in North America, partly because of its specialized ecological associations. It is a nest parasite of oil-collecting bees of the genus Macropis which, in turn, are dependent on oil-producing flowers of the genus Lysimachia.

In fact, the cuckoo bee - which much like its feather-bearing counterpart does not build a nest of its own, but lays its eggs in those of other species instead - is so rare that it was thought to have gone extinct until it was collected in Nova Scotia, Canada, in the early 2000s. As a result, the Macropis Cuckoo Bee was brought to the attention of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada(COSEWIC).

Recently, an individual reported from Alberta, Canada, brought new hope for the survival of the species. In addition to previously collected specimens from Ontario, this record greatly expands the known range of the cuckoo.

Scientists Dr. Cory S Sheffield, Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Canada, who was the one to rediscover the "extinct" species in Nova Scotia, and Jennifer Heron,British Columbia Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy, present their new data, and discuss the conservation status of this species in their paper, published in the open access journal Biodiversity Data Journal.

"This species has a very interesting biology," they say, "being a nest parasite - or cuckoo - of another group of bees that in turn have very specialized dietary needs."

The hosts, bees of the genus Macropis (which themselves are quite rare) are entirely dependent on plants of the primrose genus Lysimachia. Moreover, they only go after those Lysimachia species whose flowers produce oil droplets, which the insects collect and feed to their larvae. Thus, Macropis bees require these oil-producing flowers to exist just like Macropis Cuckoo Bees need their hosts and their nests. Curiously, this reliance, as suggested by previous studies on related European species, has made the female cuckoos develop the ability to find their host's nests by the smell of the floral oils.

"This level of co-dependence between flower, bee, and cuckoo bee, makes for a very tenuous existence, especially for the cuckoo," the authors comment. "The recent specimen from Alberta lets us know that the species is still out there, and is more widespread than we thought."

In conclusion, the authors suggest that continuing to monitor for populations of rare bees, and documenting historic records, are crucial for conservation status assessments of at-risk species.

"Biodiversity Data Journal provides a great venue to share this type of information with our colleagues for regional, national, and international efforts for species conservation," they note.

Original source:
Sheffield C, Heron J (2018) A new western Canadian record of Epeoloides pilosulus (Cresson), with discussion of ecological associations, distribution and conservation status in Canada. Biodiversity Data Journal 6: e22837.https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.6.e22837

Beekeepers Feel The Sting Of California's Great Hive Heist

NPR The Salt    All Things Considered  June 27, 2017

Beehives in an apiary Daniel Milchev/Getty Images

Seventy-one million. That's the number of bees Max Nikolaychuk tends in the rolling hills east of Fresno, Calif. Each is worth a fraction of a cent, but together, they make up a large part of his livelihood.

Nikolaychuk makes most of his money during almond pollination season, renting out the bees to California's almond orchards. This year, a thief stole four stacks of his hives.

"He knew about the bees, because he went through every bee colony I had and only took the good ones," he says. "But, you know, the bee yards — I don't have no security there, no fences."

That lack of security means his bees have been stolen more than once. And it's a type of theft that's been playing out all over the state's orchards.

Literally billions of bees are needed to pollinate California's almond crop. Not enough bees live in California year-round to do that. So they are trucked in from across the country, from places like Colorado, Arizona and Montana. Earlier this year, around a million dollars' worth of stolen bees were found in a field in Fresno County. Sgt. Arley Terrence with the Fresno County Sheriff's Department says it was a "beehive chop shop."

"There were so many different beehives and bee boxes owned by so many different victims," Terrence says. "All of these stolen bee boxes that we recovered — none of them were stolen in Fresno County."

The bees were stolen from across California, but they belong to beekeepers from around the country. A few thousand bee boxes disappear every year, but this bee heist was different.

"This is the biggest bee theft investigation that we've had," Terrence says. Most of the time, he says, beehive thieves turn out to be "someone within the bee community."

Earlier this year, California authorities uncovered this "beehive chop-shop" in a field in Fresno County. A single bee is worth a fraction of a cent, but there can be as many as 65,000 bees in each hive.

Earlier this year, California authorities uncovered this "beehive chop-shop" in a field in Fresno County. A single bee is worth a fraction of a cent, but there can be as many as 65,000 bees in each hive. Ezra Romero for NPR. That was the case in the giant heist earlier this year. The alleged thief, Pavel Tveretinov, was a beekeeper from Sacramento who used the stolen bees for pollination and then stashed them on a plot of land in Fresno County. He was arrested and could face around 10 years of jail time. And authorities say he didn't act alone. His alleged accomplice, Vitaliy Yeroshenko, has been charged and a warrant is out for his arrest.

Steve Godlin with the California State Beekeepers Association says the problem of hive theft gets worse every year.

"There used to be kind of a code of honor that you didn't mess with another man's bees," Godlin says. But the alleged perpetrators of this giant hive theft broke that code.

"He went way, way over the line, Godlin says. "It's just, you know, heart breaking when you go out and your bees are gone."

Godlin has had hives stolen in the past. He and many other beekeepers make their income not just from renting out hives but also from selling the honey the bees produce. So when bees are stolen, beekeepers lose out on both sources of income.

Godlin says it takes time to develop a new hive by introducing a new queen and developing honey. "Bees, you know, we have been hit by everything from vandals to bears to thieves. But the vandalism and thieving is the worst. You know, the one that hurts the most."

Godlin says his organization will pay a reward of up to $10,000 for tips leading to the prosecution of bee thieves. But that only relieves some of the sting.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/06/27/534128664/beekeepers-feel-the-sting-of-california-s-giant-beehive-heist

Related: /home/2017/6/23/two-men-charged-in-major-beehive-theft-targeting-central-val.html

These Bees Nest in Sandstone

Global Possibilities    By Casey Coates Danson     May 30, 2017

By  in EARTHSKY.ORG

"Rock is apparently no match for Anthophora pueblo bees. Scientists have found their sandstone nests scattered across dry lands in the U.S. Southwest."

Sandstone nest of an Anthophora pueblo bee. Image via Michael Orr.Bees are known for building elaborate nests, typically in trees or in the ground, but I was still surprised when I came across an article in Eos describing a new species of bee that builds its nests in hard sandstone. The bee, which has been named Anthophora pueblo in honor of the ancestral Pueblo peoples who built cliff dwellings in sandstone, is an inhabitant of dry lands in the Southwestern United States.

Frank Parker, a U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist, first discovered the bees at two sites in the San Rafael Desert of Utah nearly 40 years ago. He took samples of the sandstone nests and even raised some young bees until they emerged as adults, but his work was never published. Recently, Parker’s research caught the attention of Michael Orr, a doctoral student at Utah State University, who discovered five new sandstone nests in places such as California’s Death Valley and Mesa Verde, Colorado. Orr and Parker’s research on these five new nest sites in addition to the two earlier ones was published in Current Biology on September 12, 2016.

Close-up view of a female Anthophora pueblo bee. Image Credit: Michael Orr.Apparently, the conditions need to be just right for the bees to build their sandstone nests—the sandstone cannot be too hard and a water source has to be located nearby. In areas where the sandstone was very hard, the bees actually preferred nesting in other materials like silt, but in areas where the sandstone was softer, the bees preferred nesting in the sandstone. The scientists think that the bees may use water to help dissolve the sandstone and excavate tunnels throughout their nests.

A looming question about this odd type of bee behavior is to determine why this species expends the extra energy it takes to construct sandstone nests. The sandstone nests could be less susceptible to destruction by flash floods, or they could be more resistant to invasions by pathogens and parasites, the scientists say. There clearly is some sort of benefit gained by building a sandstone nest.

Orr commented on this puzzling dilemma in a statement:

"Sandstone is more durable than most other nesting options and any bees that do not emerge from these nests in a year are better protected. Delayed emergence is a bet-hedging strategy for avoiding years with poor floral resources—especially useful in the drought-prone desert."

Since completing his study, Orr has discovered dozens of new sandstone nests in Utah, California, Colorado, and Nevada. The conservation status of this new species will need to be determined, as it is an uncommon species that could be susceptible to disruptions such as droughts.

Wild Horse Creek, Utah, a site where Anthophora pueblo bees were found. Image Credit: Michael Orr.Other co-authors of the study included Terry Griswold and James Pitts. Financial support for the research was provided by Utah State and a James and Patty MacMahon Graduate Student Research Award.

Bottom line: Scientists have described a new species of bee that builds its nests in hard sandstone.

Deanna Conners

Deanna Conners is an Environmental Scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Toxicology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies. Her interest in toxicology stems from having grown up near the Love Canal Superfund Site in New York. Her current work is to provide high-quality scientific information to the public and decision-makers and to help build cross-disciplinary partnerships that help solve environmental problems. She writes about Earth science and nature conservation for EarthSky.

http://www.globalpossibilities.org/these-bees-nest-in-sandstone/

Bears Raiding Bee Colonies: They're Seeking the Brood

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey     May 18, 2017

A huge financial loss: this is an example of the damage a bear can do in the bee yard.(Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris, Palo Cedro)Yes, bears raid honey bee colonies.

But it's primarily for the bee brood, not the honey.

The brood provides the protein, and the honey, the  carbohydrates. For beekeepers and commercial queen bee breeders, this can wreak havoc. Financial havoc.

The American Beekeeping Federation, headed by Gene Brandi of Los Gatos, recently asked Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to respond to a question about bees and bears.

Mussen, who retired in 2014 after 38 years of service (but he still remains active from his office in Briggs Hall), is from Minnesota, where the bears are and he isn't. He's managed to photograph a few bears, though, on family outings to Lake Tahoe.

We thought we'd share his response about bees and bears. Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, who owns Jackie Park-Burris Queens, kindly let us post some of her photos so our readers can see what bear damage looks like.  A past president of the California State Apiary Board and the California State Beekeepers' Association, she's a member of the noted Homer Park beekeeping family and has been involved with bees all of her life. She's been breeding Park Italian queens since 1994.

But back to Eric Mussen, the bee guru who has answered tons of questions during his 38-year academic career and who's now serving his sixth term as president of the Western Apicultural Society. (The society, founded in Davis, will gather \Sept. 5-8 in Davis for its 40th annual meeting, returning to its roots.)

"Bears eat both meat and plants (berries) etc. whenever they can find them," Mussen says. "Most people think that a bear has a sweet tooth, since it is attracted to beehives. While it is true that bears will eat some honey if it gains access to a hive, a closer look shows that it will eat all of what we call 'brood' first, and then eats a little honey."

Eric MussenMussen describes bee brood "as made up of bee eggs, larvae, and pupae."  Since the queen may be laying between 1000 and 2000 eggs a day, "quite a bit of brood can accumulate before the end of the 21-day period that it takes to complete development from egg to adult female worker bee (24 days for the drones)."

"Bears have a pretty good sense of smell, so they can smell a beehive if they get downwind of a nearby colony," Mussen points out. "If the colony is living in a tree, often the bear literally tears the tree apart to get to the bees.  Unfortunately, they will claw and dig into a man-made beehive, as well.  They leave the covers scattered all over; the hive boxes scattered and often broken; the combs pulled out, broken, and strewn about in the apiary; and the combs that had brood in them will have the comb eaten out.  The colony will not survive and there may be very little undamaged equipment to salvage."

"To a small-scale beekeeper," Mussen says, "the financial loss is not too severe.  However, losing the colony, that requires so much effort to keep healthy these days, is quite a blow.  For commercial operators, who may not revisit the apiary for a couple weeks, it can mean a very substantial economic loss."

"The correct type of well-maintained bear fence usually is very effective at keeping bears away from the hives.  However, that holds true only for situations in which the bear has not had previous positive experiences ripping apart man-made beehives.  In that case, the bear expects a substantial reward for barging through the stinging fence and getting into the hives."

What to do? "Most beekeepers have no desire to kill bears, but they do desire to keep their colonies alive," Mussen says. "Often, attempts are made to capture the offending bear, tag it, and move it away far enough that it should not return.  Some of the wildlife specialists marvel in how far away a bear can be taken away and still return. Bears that cannot stay away from apiaries, or away from people's houses, or away from trash containers, etc., sometimes have to be eliminated.  It is best to have this done by agency personnel, but sometimes in remote areas the beekeepers get deprivation permits and kill the bear themselves.  In Northern California, the beekeeper has to notify the wildlife people of the kill, and the carcass has to be inspected to be certain that specific, black market body parts have not been removed from the bear.  The carcass then is buried in a landfill, or once in a while used in institutional food."

Occasionally Bug Squad hears of bears raiding honey bee hives in rural Solano County. We remember a story about a beekeeper/queen breeder in Mix Canyon, Vacaville, who was losing his hives to a "wild animal." The loss? Reportedly about $30,000. He set up a stealth camera and....photographed a 300-pound black bear. 

"Bears have a pretty good sense of smell," as Mussen says, and the result can be "a very substantial economic loss."

This is what bear damage to a hive looks like. This photo was provided by Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, who owns Jackie Park-Burris Queens. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris.)

A bear scattered frames all over this bee yard, as it went for the brood and then the honey. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris, Palo Cedro.)

A bear wreaked havoc in this bee yard. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris, Palo Cedro.)

 This image of a bear snagging fish was taken at Lake Tahoe by Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's been answering questions about bears and bees for more than three decades.

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24145

Save the bees! Wait, was that a bee?

TEDxTalks   Joseph Wilson / TEDx USU    December 1, 2016

There is a growing movement around the world to “save the bees.” Unfortunately, misunderstandings about what a bee is and what a bee’s needs are can lead to misguided efforts to save them. Much of the movement has focused on honey bees or bumble bees but has ignored the other 95% of bee species, many of which are important pollinators in our wild lands and in agricultural settings. In order to truly save the bees, we first need to understand them.

Joseph Wilson grew up in Utah and was biologically inclined from birth. At the age of two, he declared to his parents that when he grew up, he wanted to be a lion. While he didn’t quite achieve that goal, his studies at Utah State University provided the training to be the next best thing: a professor of biology. His research focuses primarily on the evolution and ecology of bees and wasps. Joseph says that the lives of these insects provide as much drama, mystery, and humor as any prime time TV show—but without the commercials.

Along with a colleague, Joseph recently authored a book, “The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees.” He has been invited to share his knowledge on NPR, Canada Public Radio, and at speaking events across the country.

Joseph loves that his research enables him to travel around the country with his wife and three children, collecting and photographing the beautiful bees and wasps that live all around us.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVDXD3oyMJg&sns=fb

Spirit of the Beehive

BBC Radio 4Extra  Radio Broadcast

Nina Perry's composed feature 'Spirit of the Beehive' explores our enduring relationship with the honeybee, lifting the lid of the beehive to hear some surprising lessons to be learnt through observing and working with bees, as well as how the life of bees inspires human endeavours in the arts and in business.

We follow a group of young people from Hackney in London who are passionate urban beekeepers. They work for The Golden Company, a social enterprise taking their beekeeping to new heights by installing bees on the roof of investment bank Nomura - where the bees are seen as a symbol of productivity and growth in the city.

Scientists at Sussex University explain how they are looking at ways to help the honeybee by eavesdropping in on their communication system, the waggle dance. We peek inside the bee-inspired Parisian Artist community La Ruche (the beehive) and are led through the bee sanctuary of the Natural Beekeeping Trust to discover the virtues of listening to bees.

Musician: Oli Langford (Violin)
Composer: Nina Perry

Producer: Nina Perry
A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b013r2gv

Varroa Mites - A True Community Problem

APIS Information Resource Center

Many beekeepers are individualists. Experience trying to get beekeepers to act in unison reveals at best a laissez faire attitude about cooperating together on certain projects. In fact, the history of associations and other groups dedicated to beekeeping issues more often than not shows that beekeepers actively work against each other. Evidence from seminars and other educational events also supports the thesis that beekeepers are content to go about their business independent of their neighbors.

To non beekeepers, the individuality of many beekeepers seems strange, for honey bees are just the opposite. They are the most social of creatures. A single individual in a beehive, be it queen, drone or worker, means nothing. Survival depends on working together for the common good. If this is a good strategy for bees, then why do beekeepers not subscribe to it?

In the past, the rugged individualistic beekeeper could function well enough. In fact, the craft demanded one be a self- starter and an innovator. Times were simpler (or seemed so) and there were fewer non beekeepers with whick to interact. Advances in transportation and increases in growth and development have affected rural and urban areas. This has resulted in problems often associated with activities of other people. For the beekeeper, this has meant everything from death of colonies because of pesticide application to permanent loss of beehive locations.

In 1987, Varroa mites were detected in the United States, forever changing the face of beekeeping. Fortunately for U.S. beekeepers, a technology was in place to deal with the Varroa mite, a parasite that effectively kills most honey bee colonies it invades. Certain chemical control methods were legal and labelled; they reduce mite populations in beehives by over 95%. It is important to understand, however, that although chemicals control the mite population, the threat is not eliminated and populations can resurge dramatically. In all probability, the beekeeping community will have to deal with Varroa mites from now on.

Although chemical control has blunted the effects of the mites in individual bee colonies, it also allowed a myth to perpetuate itself. This is the belief that Varroa could be handled just like other problems in beekeeping by the individual beekeeper whenever and wherever it was deemed convenient and appropriate. The dynamics of Varroa-bee interactions, however, suggest something different.

It is now recognized that Varroa mites are not only a honey bee community problem, they are a beekeeper community problem. This idea was brought into focus by Marion Ellis, Nebraska State Apiarist at the American Beekeeping Federation meeting in Kansas City. In his presentation, he referred to an article in the December, 1991 issue of American Bee Journal entitled “How Varroa Mites Spread,” by Dr. Eva Rademacher (pp. 763-765).

Through a series of experiments, Dr. Rademacher found that Varroa mites rapidly spread among colonies in a beeyard. The main cause of growth of mite infestation is drifting parasitized bees, not natural increase of mites within individual colonies. The conclusion: It is not the infestation of a single colony, but rather the general rate of infestation for the entire yard that should be monitored.

Comparing two locations where infested apiaries were within two kilometers (1.2 miles), Dr. Rademacher also showed re- infestation rates to be dramatically different based on infestation rates of nearby apiaries. If the rate was 900 mites/colony or less (low invasion pressure), re-infestation in apiaries in close proximity was three times more than normally expected; if 900 mites/colony or more (high invasion pressure) were present, the figure rose to 11 times normal. Thus, according to Dr. Rademacher, “…it is not ‘hive mites’ which endanger the colony, but rather the ‘immigrants.'” Given this evidence, she suggests:

1. Nuclei or natural swarms which have been treated for Varroa, should be placed at locations where a low mite fluctuation from the surroundings (low invasion pressure) can be expected.

2. It is not helpful to treat just one or several of the colonies in a beeyard because of the danger presented by other infested colonies.

3. Beekeepers with beeyards rather close to each other should make arrangements to medicate their entire stock at the same time, because of the invasion pressure which leads to a rapid increase of mite population within only several weeks.

4. Invasion pressure also plays an important role when colonies are moved to other areas. Not only will a beekeeper want to determine the level of infestation in the new foraging area, but the keeper in that area should also be concerned about the level of infestation of incoming colonies.

5. Natural swarms should be medicated before being incorporated in the beeyard.

6. It is also important to prevent robbing. It has always been accepted that the robbed colony suffers. Now the robbing colony itself can be the victim from by invading mites.

The message is clear. Effective Varroa control should be undertaken as a beekeeper community effort. If not, then presence of nearby infested colonies (sometimes  called “Varroa bombs”) will quickly undermine the money and effort any beekeeper expends to control mite populations.

Perhaps the best example of communal Varroa control is found in the small country of Israel. Beekeeping there is highly regulated and strict penalties are in force for beekeepers that stray.  That country, as a consequence, has perhaps the best honey bee disease and pest control strategy in the world.

http://beekeep.info/a-treatise-on-modern-honey-bee-management/managing-diseases-and-pests/varroa-short-history/varroa-mites-a-community-problem/

The Colony-Killing Mistake Backyard Beekeepers Are Making

NPR The Salt    By Dan Gunderson    August 12, 2016 

The healthy bees managed by Jonathan Garaas are checked every two weeks for signs of a possible mite infestation. Dan Gunderson/MPR News

Jonathan Garaas has learned a few things in three seasons of backyard beekeeping: Bees are fascinating. They're complicated. And keeping them alive is not easy.

Every two weeks, the Fargo, N.D., attorney opens the hives to check the bees and search for varroa mites, pests that suck the bees' blood and can transmit disease. If he sees too many of the pinhead-sized parasites, he applies a chemical treatment.

Attorney and hobby beekeeper Jonathan Garaas keeps nine thriving hives outside of Fargo, N.D. Dan Gunderson/MPR News

Garaas has lost hives in his first two years as a novice beekeeper. But with nine hives now established near his home and a couple of University of Minnesota bee classes under his belt, he feels like he's got the hang of it, although it's still a challenge.

"You can get the book learning. You can see the YouTubes. You can be told by others," he says, but "you have to have hands-on experience. When you start putting it all together, it starts making sense."

Scientists wish every beginner beekeeper were as diligent as Garaas.

While experts welcome the rising national interest in beekeeping as a hobby, they warn that novices may be inadvertently putting their hives — and other hives for miles around — in danger by not keeping the bee mite population in check.

Many hobbyists avoid mite treatments, preferring a natural approach, says Marla Spivak, a bee expert at the University of Minnesota. But that's often a deadly decision for the bees, she says.

National surveys by the Bee Informed Partnership show backyard beekeepers are taking the greatest losses nationally, and those losses are often the result of an out-of-control infestation of the varroa mite, says Spivak.

Varroa mites arrived in the United States nearly 30 years ago, and they've become a big problem in recent years.

Untreated hives can spread mites and viruses to other hives within several miles, Spivak says. Healthy bees will invade a dying hive to steal its honey. When they do, they carry the mites with them back to their hives.

University of Minnesota Bee Squad coordinator Becky Masterman secures a strap on a bee box on the roof of the Weisman Museum in Minneapolis. Judy Griesedieck for MPR News

"The combination of the mite and the viruses is deadly," says Spivak.

The University of Minnesota Bee Squad, a group that provides beekeeping education and mentoring in the Twin Cities, is seeing more healthy hives become rapidly infested with mites and the viruses they carry.

Fall is an especially critical season, says Rebecca Masterman, the Bee Squad's associate program director.

"That late season reinfestation means that bees are going through winter with a lot of mite pressure and it's really hard for them to come out of that and survive," she says. "It's important enough to really try to get every backyard beekeeper in the country to at least be aware of it."

Masterman says she's also encouraging commercial beekeepers to check their bees more often for surprise mite infestations. A new online mite-monitoring project lets beekeepers anywhere in the country share data on infestations that will help researchers track the spread.

A mite control experiment this summer should provide more information about how to best treat mites in bee colonies.

One threat to honeybees is the varroa mite, seen here invading the pupae of a developing bee. Untreated infestations will kill colonies. Judy Griesedieck for MPR NewsBees face other challenges beyond mites, including poor nutrition, disease and pesticides. Even veteran beekeepers say it takes more effort to keep their bees alive these days.

But the mite and virus threat to bees is something that can be controlled, says Spivak.

"I really understand why some people might not like to have to treat their bee colony for mites. It just sounds so awful. It's such a beautiful bee colony and to have to stick some kind of a treatment in there seems so unnatural," she says.

"But our bees are dying. And it's very important to help do whatever we can to keep them alive."

http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/12/489622982/the-colony-killing-mistake-backyard-beekeepers-are-making

With Busy Bees in the Lead, "Pollinator-Friendly" Approach Vital for Healthy Agricultural Ecosystems UN

CATCH THE BUZZ - Bee Culture Magazine    June 6, 2106

A bee does its business in Kenya’s Kerio Valley. Photo: FAO/Dino MartinsAs bellwethers for ecosystem health and biodiversity, bees play a crucial role in agriculture and ending hunger, and “pollinator-friendly” approaches are therefore highly encouraged, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“A world without pollinators would be a world without food diversity – and in the long run, without food security,” José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, said late last week during a visit to Slovenia’s national beekeepers’ festival.

FAO, as well as some 53 countries, has supported Slovenia in the promotion of declaring May 20 as the World Bee Day at the last regional Conference of Europe.

The technical committees of FAO and the FAO Conference in 2017 would be one of the first concrete actions in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to Mr. Graziano da Silva.

Honey bees, he noted, are the world’s most famous pollinators, a group of species whose members fly, hop and crawl over flowers to allow plants – including those that account for over a third of global food crop production – to reproduce. Their absence, however, would remove a host of nutritious foods from our diets, including squash, strawberries, carrots, apples, almonds, cherries, blueberries and cocoa.

Moreover, ecosystem health and biodiversity also depend on more than 20,000 species of wild bees which have links to specific flowering plants and are more vulnerable to climate change.

“Bees are a sign of well-functioning ecosystems,” said Mr. Graziano da Silva, adding that “to a great extent the decline of pollinators is also a sign of the disruptions that global changes are causing to ecosystems the world over.”

Land-use change, pesticide use, monoculture agriculture and climate change are some facts that have threatened bee populations.

Fostering robust pollinator communities ensures a diversity of environmental homes for them and supports traditional agricultural practices that benefit them, he noted.

“Pollination is one of the most visible ecosystem services that make food production even possible,” said the FAO Director-General.

Improving pollinator density and diversity have direct and positive impact on crop yields. In this regard, the FAO-backed International Pollinators Initiative – knowledge, guidelines and protocols – has been supporting countries in monitoring pollinators and better understand threats, information needs and data gaps since 2000.

Welcoming Slovenia’s leadership in apiculture, Mr. Graziano da Silva also urged all countries to take up “pollinator friendly” approaches towards farming and appreciate the important role of bees and other pollinators, and make their pollinator-friendly choices, he added.

“Without bees, it would be impossible to achieve FAO’s main goal, a world without hunger,” he said.

http://goo.gl/btucxM

Biologists Discover Billions of Missing Bees Living Anonymously in Sacramento

The Onion   May 11, 2016

SACRAMENTO, CA—Putting to rest a mystery that has confounded scientists for a decade, a team of biologists from the University of California, Berkeley announced Wednesday that billions of bees believed to have died in recent years were discovered living anonymously in a quiet neighborhood in Sacramento. “Over the years, the scientific community has come up with a number of theories to explain the unusual disappearance of bee populations throughout the world, but it turns out they’ve been in Sacramento the whole time,” said Berkeley Department of Entomology director Lucinda Ronan, who admitted that she and her colleagues had “never thought to look” for the millions of colonies’ worth of flying insects in the sleepy, tree-lined Northern California city and eventually came upon them in an out-of-the-way subdivision entirely by accident. “Our working hypothesis is that they may have been burned out from the incessant task of pollination, or felt too much pressure to produce honey. Regardless, they up and left without any notice, opting for a low-key, simple lifestyle in a nice, peaceful community, completely out of the limelight. It really seems to suit them.” Residents of the unassuming housing development where the bees have evidently lived for the past several years described the immense swarm of insects as “reserved,” “polite,” and dedicated to providing a nice, clean hive for their larvae. 

http://www.theonion.com/article/biologists-discover-billions-missing-bees-living-a-52912

Head-Banging Bees

Harvard University   Published on Feb 3, 2016


While researching how bees native to Australia pollinate tomato plants, Harvard scientists stumbled onto a surprising find – to shake pollen out of the cone-shaped flowers, Australian blue-banded bees actually bang their heads against them at the headache-inducing rate of 350 times per second. (Banging Blue Banded Bee)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yV4FdnBfsjA

EPA Must Assess the Indiscriminate Pollinator Poisoning Caused by Neonicotinoids Imparted to Plants from Seeds, Lawsuit Charges

Beyond Pesticides     January 8, 2016

This week the Center for Food Safety, on behalf of several beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture and conservation groups, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Wednesday charging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a failure to adequately regulate neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops throughout the U.S. The suit alleges that EPA has illegally allowed millions of pounds of coated seeds to be planted annually on more than 150 million acres nationwide, constituting a direct violation of the registration requirements established by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Absent adequate assessment of the serious ongoing environmental harms associated with coated seed use, as well as failure to require the registration of coated seeds and enforceable labels on seeds bags, this lawsuit demands immediate action to protect beekeepers, farmers and consumers from the harms associated with neonicotinoid coated seeds.

Seed TechnologyNeonicotinoids are a class of insecticides that share a common mode of action that affects the central nervous system of insects, resulting in disorientation, paralysis and death. Neonicotinoid pesticides are tied to recent pollinator declines by an ever-growing body of science. Just this week EPA released a preliminary honey bee risk assessment linking severely declining honeybee populations to the use of the neonicotinoidimidacloprid, which, along with clothianidin andthiamethoxam, is commonly used to coat agricultural seeds. This raises huge concerns because neonicotinoids are persistent in the environment, and when used as seed treatments (as well as drench treatments), translocate throughout the plant (thus are systemic), ending up in pollen and nectar and exposing pollinators like bees, birds, and butterflies long after the planting season has ended.

Not only are neonicotinoid coated seeds harmful to pollinators, they also offer little economic value to farmers. In 2014, EPA released a memorandum concluding that soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoid insecticides provide little or no overall benefits in controlling insects or improving yield or quality in chemical-intensive soybean production. The memo states, “In studies that included a comparison to foliar insecticides, there were no instances where neonicotinoid seed treatments out-performed any foliar insecticide in yield protection from any pest.” A report by Center for Food Safety that same year assembled the scientific literature that refutes claims that neonicotinoids bring greater benefits than costs to farmers. In the report, researchers analyzed independent, peer-reviewed, scientific literature and found that the benefits of prophylactic neonicotinoid use via seed treatments are nearly non-existent, and that any minor benefits that did occur were negated due to honey bee colony impacts, reduced crop pollination by honey bees, reduced production of honey and other bee products, loss of ecosystem services, and market damage from contamination events. Furthermore, preliminary reports out of the UK find that the country is poised to harvest higher than expected yields of canola in its first neonicotinoid-free growing season since the European moratorium on neonicotinoids went into place in 2013.

The lawsuit seeks to challenge EPA’s reliance on FIFRA’s “treated article exemption,” which, to this point, has been used to allow the pesticide industry to circumvent proper registration and review of neonicotinoid coated seeds. The treated article exemption exempts from regulation “an article or substance treated with, or containing a pesticide to protect the article or substance itself, if the pesticide is registered for such use.” 40 CFR § 152.25. Plaintiffs argue that, due to the systemic nature of neonicotinoids, coated seeds are “pesticide” products under FIFRA and require review by EPA. The lawsuit claims that neonicotinoid coatings are not merely intended to protect the seed before germination, but instead designed to carry the active ingredients via the plants’ circulatory system into every living tissue of the plant, thereby imparting the pest injuring (or pesticide) capability to the plant. In doing so, the lawsuit states, the treated article exemption does not apply to the coated seeds. Plaintiffs allege that exempting coated seeds from FIFRA registration is an ultra vires (beyond legal authority) use of agency power, and that failure to regulate and enforce against this pesticide use under FIFRA is unlawful and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

The plaintiffs in the case are beekeepers Jeff Anderson, Bret Adee, David Hackenberg, and Pollinator Stewardship Council, farmers Lucas Criswell and Gail Fuller, and public interest and conservation groups American Bird Conservancy, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network of North America

Efforts to stop the harm that neonicotinoids are causing are ongoing on many fronts. Across the nation, jurisdictions, like Boulder and Lafayette, Colorado, have been banning or limiting neonicotinoids. Last year, Ontario, Canada proposed a plan to reduce the use of neonic-coated corn and soybean seeds by 80%. In 2013, the European Union issued a 2-year moratorium banning neonics. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a ban on neonicotinoid insecticides at all wildlife refuges nationwide by this January. For more information on pollinators and pesticides, see Beyond Pesticides’ BeeProtective page.

The Saving America’s Pollinator’s Act remains an avenue for Congress to address the pollinator crisis. Contact your U.S. Representative and ask them to support this important legislation today. You can also get active in your community to protect bees by advocating for policies that restrict their use. Montgomery County, Maryland recently restricted the use of a wide range of pesticides, including neonics, on public and private property. Sign here if you’d like to see your community do the same!

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: CFS press release

Read at: http://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2016/01/epa-must-assess-the-indiscriminate-pollinator-poisoning-caused-by-neonicotinoids-imparted-to-plants-from-seeds-lawsuit-charges/

Beekeeper, Farmers, and Public Interest Groups Sue EPA over Failed Oversight of Neonicotinoid-coated Seeds

Center for Food Safety    Press Release    January 6, 2016

Widespread and unregulated use of insecticide threatens bees, birds,
livelihoods and ecosystems

WASHINGTON, DC —Center for Food Safety, on behalf of several beekeepers, farmers and sustainable agriculture and conservation groups, filed a lawsuit today challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) inadequate regulation of the neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings used on dozens of crops. EPA has allowed millions of pounds of coated seeds to be planted annually on more than 150 million acres nationwide. The lawsuit alleges the agency has illegally allowed this to occur, without requiring the coated seeds to be registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), without enforceable labels on the seed bags, and without adequate assessments of the serious ongoing environmental harm. 

“EPA’s actions surrounding neonicotinoid seed coatings have led to intensifying and destructive consequences. These include acute honey bee kills, as well as chronic effects to numerous species, nationwide water and soil contamination, and other environmental and economic harms,” said Peter Jenkins, attorney with Center for Food Safety. “This lawsuit aims to hold EPA accountable to dramatically reduce this harm in the future.” 

Neonicotinoids are a class of insecticides known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species and are considered a major factor in overall bee population declines and poor health. Up to 95 percent of the applied seed coating ends up in the surrounding air, soil and water rather than in the crop for which it was intended, leading to extensive contamination. 

“My honey farm business is not capable of surviving another three to five years if EPA chooses to 'drag out' the treated article exemption in the courts at the request of the pesticide industry instead of properly regulating these pesticides. People need pollinated food; somebody must stand up and say no to unregulated killing of pollinators,” said Jeff Anderson, beekeeper and the lead plaintiff in the case. 

“After experiencing a large loss of bees this spring due to corn planting ‘dust off,’ I believe that it is of critical importance that this defective product not be used as a prophylactic seed treatment,” said Bret Adee, owner of the largest commercial beekeeping operation in the country.

“As a beekeeper for over 50 years, I have lost more colonies of honey bees in the last ten years from the after effects of neonic seed coatings than all others causes over the first 40 plus years of my beekeeping operation,” said beekeeper David Hackenberg. “This not only affects my honey bees, but as a farmer it also affects my land and the health of my soil. It is time for EPA to accept the responsibility to protect not only our honey bees and other pollinators, but also our soil and our environment.” 

“Farmers rely on the crop pollination services of beekeepers to increase the yield of their crops. Farmers need clear, concise pesticide label guidelines in order to protect their crops and protect honey bees. Healthy relationships between soil and water, beekeepers and farmers, and beneficial insects and crops are essential to an affordable and sustainable food supply,” said Michele Colopy, program director at the Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc. 

The cost-effectiveness of neonicotinoid seed coatings has been challenged in recent years, with numerous studies indicating that their near ubiquitous use is unnecessary — and making EPA’s disregard of their risks all the more harmful. Along with honey bees, wild bees and other beneficial insects are in serious decline, leading to reduced yields. Overuse of the insecticides threatens sustainable agriculture going forward. 

“I began to question the value of neonicotinoids after some side-by-side comparisons showed little if any yield advantage. Shortly after this I began to hear of the possible connection between neonicotinoids and their detriment to honey bees, and I stopped using them altogether,” said Kansas grain farmer Gail Fuller of Fuller Farms. 

“A single seed coated with a neonicotinoid insecticide is enough to kill a songbird.  There is no justification for EPA to exempt these pesticide delivery devices from regulation. American Bird Conservancy urges the agency to evaluate the risks to birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife,” said Cynthia Palmer, director of pesticides science and regulation at American Bird Conservancy.

"EPA can't bury its head in the sand any longer. Seed coatings are just the latest delivery device of pesticide corporations that pose a threat to pollinators and the food system," said Marcia Ishii- Eiteman, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. "Given widespread use and persistence of these bee-harming pesticides, it's time for EPA to fully and swiftly evaluate the impacts of seed coatings — and prevent future harm.”

EPA has also allowed several other similar systemic seed-coating insecticides onto the market and appears poised to approve additional coating products in the near future.

The plaintiffs in the case are beekeepers Jeff Anderson, Bret Adee, David Hackenberg, and Pollinator Stewardship Council, farmers Lucas Criswell and Gail Fuller, and public interest and conservation groups American Bird Conservancy, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network of North America.

Read at: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/304/pollinators-and-pesticides/press-releases/4197/beekeeper-farmers-and-public-interest-groups-sue-epa-over-failed-oversight-of-neonicotinoid-coated-seeds#

An Introduction To The 4,000 Kinds Of Bees In The U.S. And Canada

The Washington Post - Home and Garden     By Adrian Higgans    January 6, 2016

At social gatherings, when folks learn that Joseph Wilson is an expert on bees, they sometimes parade their knowledge of these insects: Bees live in large colonies with their mother queen, they make great stores of honey and if they sting, the stinger stays attached to your skin.

This is all true for the honeybee, but not for the 4,000 other species of bee found in the United States and Canada. “They don’t live in big hives, they don’t make honey and they can sting you multiple times,” Wilson said. “All those things they thought applied to bees are...

Continue reading:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/for-gardeners-a-plan-bee/2016/01/05/2306d824-a8f9-11e5-bff5-905b92f5f94b_story.html

Wild Bees Are Least Abundant Where They're Most Needed, Study Says

Los Angeles Times     By Geoffrey Mohan   December 21, 2015

But the Central Valley's love affair with almonds and other orchard crops has left the area with a steep imbalance between wild bee populations and the need for the pollination services they provide, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study comes amid alarm over the precipitous decline in the population of commercial honey bees that are brought in to pollinate crops, at great expense to growers.

Wild bees, it turns out, can make domesticated honey bees much more efficient, and that adds about $3 billion to the country's agricultural production, studies have shown.

The bee imbalance:

The red zone: Where supply and demand for wild bees are mismatched. (Leif Richardson / University of Vermont)

The map above shows where the gap between abundance of wild bees and demand for pollination is steepest. Not surprisingly, the biggest disparities, shown in red, occur in areas where extensive tracts are given over to single-crop cultivation. Those include 139 counties, mainly in the Upper Great Plains, areas flanking the lower Mississippi River, and swaths of Texas, California, Arizona and Washington.

“I think the reason why the Central Valley lights up so much is largely almonds," said study co-author Taylor Ricketts, a landscape ecologist at the University of Vermont. "It's a hugely valuable crop that’s been expanding like crazy, and it’s entirely dependent on pollinators.”

Crops such as tomatoes and pitted fruits contribute to the state's supply-demand gap, "but the one that is making the map so bright red is almond,” Ricketts said.

California growers added about 140,000 acres of nut-bearing almond trees from 2008 to 2013, the time period of the study, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. The $3-billion almond industry spends $239 million annually to rent more than 1 million bee hives.

The wild bee population study, the first of its kind at a national scale, comes in response to a White House effort last year aimed at addressing honey bee colony collapses. It called for a national assessment of wild honey bee populations, and the creation of 7 million additional acres of habitat for wild pollinators.

Knowing where pollinators are available and how changes in landscape can affect their abundance is central to any effort to add more habitat, Ricketts said. 

So the researchers gathered estimates of bee abundance from top entomologists, then created a model that predicts how many wild bees live and work on different types of land in the lower 48 states. Those modeled results were spot-checked against data from smaller-scale studies.

Using a well-known database of land cover, the researchers calculated the change in bee abundance from 2008 to 2013. Then, they mapped the relationship between relative abundance and the need for pollination, based on the types of crops cultivated. That reduced the problem to one of supply and demand.

Over those five years, relative abundance of wild bees declined in 23% of the land area in the contiguous states, the study found.

Where the wild things aren't:

Wild bee abundance declined in 23% of U.S. land area, a new study suggests. (Leif Richardson / University of Vermont)

The resulting map could be a warning to growers that they are too dependent on commercial honey bees and should “diversify their portfolio," Ricketts said.

“It could be a glimpse of the future for a lot of crops," said Ricketts. "It’s such an extreme and early case, where they’ve so intensified that there’s no habitat left for native bees. "

California's Central Valley, the Imperial Valley and parts of Washington stand out in the West, largely because growers there cultivate crops that depend heavily on pollination: apples, peaches, pears, blueberries, cherries, watermelon and honeydew melons, almonds and tomatoes.

"We are a state with a huge dependence on pollination. We have very intensive agriculture, which has challenged our wild bee pollination a lot," said UC Davis entomologist Neal Williams, one of the authors of the study.

Increased gaps elsewhere in the nation came from a greater rise in acreage dedicated to crops that are only moderately dependent on pollination, such as soybeans, cotton, canola and sunflower, the researchers said.

Some almond growers have begun to take notice, adding wild bees to their pollination plan and restoring native vegetation. Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds, formerly known as Paramount Farms, will use blue orchard bees this year during pollination season, for example.

The effort is part of a national campaign to diversify the way crops are pollinated, Williams said.

"Where there are wild bees present, even modest numbers of wild bees can make the honey bee a better pollinator of almonds," Williams said. "It changes the behavior of the honey bees. For some reason … the wild bees cause the honey bees to move more between varieties. So they’re essentially transporting better pollen.”

Read at: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-bees-almonds-20151221-htmlstory.html